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       A Realm of Shadows, p.1

         Part #5 of Kings And Sorcerers series by Morgan Rice
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A Realm of Shadows


  A R E A L M O F S H A D O W S

  (KINGS AND SORCERERS—BOOK 5)

  MORGAN RICE

  Morgan Rice

  Morgan Rice is the #1 bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of the epic fantasy series THE SORCERER’S RING, comprising seventeen books; of the #1 bestselling series THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS, comprising eleven books (and counting); of the #1 bestselling series THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY, a post-apocalyptic thriller comprising two books (and counting); and of the new epic fantasy series KINGS AND SORCERERS, comprising six books. Morgan’s books are available in audio and print editions, and translations are available in over 25 languages.

  TURNED (Book #1 in the Vampire Journals), ARENA ONE (Book #1 of the Survival Trilogy), A QUEST OF HEROES (Book #1 in the Sorcerer’s Ring) and RISE OF THE DRAGONS (Kings and Sorcerers—Book #1) are each available as a free download on Amazon!

  Morgan loves to hear from you, so please feel free to visit www.morganricebooks.com to join the email list, receive a free book, receive free giveaways, download the free app, get the latest exclusive news, connect on Facebook and Twitter, and stay in touch!

  Select Acclaim for Morgan Rice

  “If you thought that there was no reason left for living after the end of THE SORCERER’S RING series, you were wrong. In RISE OF THE DRAGONS Morgan Rice has come up with what promises to be another brilliant series, immersing us in a fantasy of trolls and dragons, of valor, honor, courage, magic and faith in your destiny. Morgan has managed again to produce a strong set of characters that make us cheer for them on every page.…Recommended for the permanent library of all readers that love a well-written fantasy.”

  --Books and Movie Reviews

  Roberto Mattos

  “RISE OF THE DRAGONS succeeds—right from the start…. A superior fantasy…It begins, as it should, with one protagonist's struggles and moves neatly into a wider circle of knights, dragons, magic and monsters, and destiny.…All the trappings of high fantasy are here, from soldiers and battles to confrontations with self….A recommended winner for any who enjoy epic fantasy writing fueled by powerful, believable young adult protagonists.”

  --Midwest Book Review

  D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer

  “An action packed fantasy sure to please fans of Morgan Rice’s previous novels, along with fans of works such as THE INHERITANCE CYCLE by Christopher Paolini…. Fans of Young Adult Fiction will devour this latest work by Rice and beg for more.”

  --The Wanderer, A Literary Journal (regarding Rise of the Dragons)

  “A spirited fantasy that weaves elements of mystery and intrigue into its story line. A Quest of Heroes is all about the making of courage and about realizing a life purpose that leads to growth, maturity, and excellence….For those seeking meaty fantasy adventures, the protagonists, devices, and action provide a vigorous set of encounters that focus well on Thor's evolution from a dreamy child to a young adult facing impossible odds for survival….Only the beginning of what promises to be an epic young adult series.”

  --Midwest Book Review (D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer)

  “THE SORCERER’S RING has all the ingredients for an instant success: plots, counterplots, mystery, valiant knights, and blossoming relationships replete with broken hearts, deception and betrayal. It will keep you entertained for hours, and will satisfy all ages. Recommended for the permanent library of all fantasy readers.”

  --Books and Movie Reviews, Roberto Mattos

  “In this action-packed first book in the epic fantasy Sorcerer's Ring series (which is currently 14 books strong), Rice introduces readers to 14-year-old Thorgrin "Thor" McLeod, whose dream is to join the Silver Legion, the elite knights who serve the king…. Rice's writing is solid and the premise intriguing.”

  --Publishers Weekly

  Books by Morgan Rice

  KINGS AND SORCERERS

  RISE OF THE DRAGONS (Book #1)

  RISE OF THE VALIANT (Book #2)

  THE WEIGHT OF HONOR (Book #3)

  A FORGE OF VALOR (Book #4)

  A REALM OF SHADOWS (Book #5)

  NIGHT OF THE BOLD (Book #6)

  THE SORCERER’S RING

  A QUEST OF HEROES (Book #1)

  A MARCH OF KINGS (Book #2)

  A FATE OF DRAGONS (Book #3)

  A CRY OF HONOR (Book #4)

  A VOW OF GLORY (Book #5)

  A CHARGE OF VALOR (Book #6)

  A RITE OF SWORDS (Book #7)

  A GRANT OF ARMS (Book #8)

  A SKY OF SPELLS (Book #9)

  A SEA OF SHIELDS (Book #10)

  A REIGN OF STEEL (Book #11)

  A LAND OF FIRE (Book #12)

  A RULE OF QUEENS (Book #13)

  AN OATH OF BROTHERS (Book #14)

  A DREAM OF MORTALS (Book #15)

  A JOUST OF KNIGHTS (Book #16)

  THE GIFT OF BATTLE (Book #17)

  THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY

  ARENA ONE: SLAVERSUNNERS (Book #1)

  ARENA TWO (Book #2)

  THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS

  TURNED (Book #1)

  LOVED (Book #2)

  BETRAYED (Book #3)

  DESTINED (Book #4)

  DESIRED (Book #5)

  BETROTHED (Book #6)

  VOWED (Book #7)

  FOUND (Book #8)

  RESURRECTED (Book #9)

  CRAVED (Book #10)

  FATED (Book #11)

  Download Morgan Rice books now!

  Listen to KINGS AND SORCERERS in its Audiobook edition!

  Amazon

  Audible

  iTunes

  Want free books?

  Subscribe to Morgan Rice's email list and receive 4 free books, 3 free maps, 1 free app, 1 free game, 1 free graphic novel, and exclusive giveaways! To subscribe, visit: www.morganricebooks.com

  Copyright © 2015 by Morgan Rice

  All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the author.

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Jacket image Copyright Algol, used under license from Shutterstock.com.

  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  CHAPTER TWENTY

  CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

  CHAPTER TWENTY TWO

  CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

  CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR

  CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE

  CHAPTER TWENTY SIX

  CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN

  CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

  CHAPTER TWENTY NINE

  CHAP
TER THIRTY

  CHAPTER THIRTY ONE

  CHAPTER THIRTY TWO

  CHAPTER THIRTY THREE

  CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR

  CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE

  CHAPTER THIRTY SIX

  “Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player,

  That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

  And then is heard no more.”

  --William Shakespeare, Macbeth

  CHAPTER ONE

  The captain of the Royal Guard stood atop his watchtower and looked down at the hundreds of Keepers below him, all the young soldiers patrolling the Flames under his watchful eye, and he sighed with resentment. A man worthy of leading battalions, the captain felt it was a daily insult for him to be stationed here, at the farthest ends of Escalon, watching over an unruly group of criminals they liked to call soldiers. These were not soldiers—they were slaves, criminals, boys, old men, the unwanted of society, all enlisted to watch a wall of flames that had not changed in a thousand years. It was really just a glorified jail, and he deserved better. He deserved to be anywhere but here, stationed guarding the royal gates of Andros.

  The captain glanced down, barely interested, as another scuffle ensued, the third this day. This one appeared to be between two overgrown boys, fighting over a scrap of meat. A crowd of shouting boys quickly gathered around them, cheering them on. This was all they had to look forward to out here. They were all too bored, standing and watching the Flames day after day, all desperate for bloodlust—and he let them have their fun. If they killed each other, so much the better—that would be two fewer boys for him to watch over.

  There came a shout as one of the boys bested the other, plunging a dagger into his heart. The boy went limp as the others cheered his death, then quickly raided his corpse for anything they could find. It was, at least, a mercifully fast death, far better than the slow ones the others would face out here. The victor stepped forward, shoved the others aside, and reached down and grabbed the morsel of bread from the dead man’s pocket, stuffing it back into his own.

  It was just another day here at the Flames, and the captain burned with indignity. He did not deserve this. He had made one mistake, once disobeying a direct order, and as punishment he had been sent here. It was unfair. What he wouldn’t give to be able to go back and change that one moment in his past. Life, he thought, could be too exacting, too absolute, too cruel.

  The captain, resigned to his fate, turned and stared back at the Flames. There was something about their ever-present crackle, even after all these years, that he found alluring, hypnotic. It was like staring into the face of God Himself. As he got lost in the glow, it made him wonder about the nature of life. It all felt so meaningless. His role here—all these boys’ roles here—felt so meaningless. The Flames had stood for thousands of years and would never die, and as long as they burned, the troll nation could never break through. Marda might as well be across the sea. If it were up to him, he would pick the best of these boys and station them elsewhere in Escalon, along the coasts, where they really needed them, and he would put all the criminals amongst them to death.

  The captain lost track of time, as he often did, getting lost in the glow of the Flames, and it wasn’t until late in the day that he suddenly squinted, alert. He had seen something, something he could not quite process, and he rubbed his eyes, knowing he must be seeing things. Yet as he watched, slowly he realized he was not seeing things. The world was changing before his eyes.

  Slowly, the ever-present crackle, the one he had lived by for every waking moment since he had arrived here, fell silent. The heat that had been pouring off the Flames suddenly vanished, leaving him feeling a chill, a real chill, for the first time since he had been here. And then, as he watched, the column of bright red and orange flames, the one that had burned his eyes, had lit up the day and night incessantly, for the first time, was gone.

  It disappeared.

  The captain rubbed his eyes again, wondering. Was he dreaming? Before him, as he watched, the Flames were lowering, down to the ground, like a curtain being dropped. And a second later, there was nothing there at all.

  Nothing.

  The captain’s breath stopped, panic and disbelief slowly welling up inside him. He found himself looking out, for the first time, to what lay on the other side: Marda. He had a clear and unobstructed view. It was a land filled with black—black, barren mountains, black craggy rocks, black earth, dead, black trees. It was a land he was never meant to see. A land that no one in Escalon was ever meant to see.

  There came a stunned silence as the boys below, for the first time, stopped fighting amongst themselves. All of them, frozen in shock, turned and gaped. The wall of flame was gone, and standing there, on the other side, facing them greedily, was an army of trolls, filling the land, filling the horizon.

  A nation.

  The captain’s heart fell. There, just feet away, stood a nation of the most disgusting beasts he had ever seen, overgrown, grotesque, misshapen, all wielding huge halberds, and all patiently awaiting their moment. Millions of them stared back, seemingly equally stunned, as it clearly dawned on them that there was now nothing separating them from Escalon.

  The two nations stood there, facing off, looking at each other, the trolls beaming with victory, the humans with panic. After all, there stood merely hundreds of humans here, against a million trolls.

  Breaking the silence there arose a shout. It came from the troll side, a shout of triumph, and it was followed by a great thunder, as the trolls charged. They rumbled through like a herd of buffalo, raising their halberds and chopping off the heads of panic-stricken boys who could not even muster the courage to run. It was a wave of death, a wave of destruction.

  The captain himself stood there on his tower, too terrified to do anything, to even draw his sword, as the trolls raced for him. A moment later he felt himself falling, as the angry mob knocked down his tower. He felt himself landing in the trolls’ arms, and he shrieked as he felt himself grabbed by their claws, torn to pieces.

  And as he lay there dying, knowing what was coming for Escalon, a final thought crossed his mind: the boy who was stabbed, who had died for the morsel of bread, was the luckiest of all.

  CHAPTER TWO

  Dierdre felt her lungs being crushed as she tumbled end over end, deep underwater, desperate for air. She tried to get her bearings but was unable, thrown around by the massive waves of water, her world turning upside down again and again. She wanted more than anything to take a deep breath, her entire body screaming for oxygen, yet she knew that to do so would certainly mean her death.

  She closed her eyes and cried, her tears merging with the water, wondering if this hell would ever end. Her only solace came in thinking of Marco. She had seen him, with her, tumbling in the waters, had felt him holding her hand, and she turned and searched for him. Yet as she looked, she saw nothing, nothing but blackness and waves of foaming, crushing water driving her down. Marco, she assumed, was long dead.

  Dierdre wanted to cry, yet the pain knocked any thoughts of self-pity from her mind, made her think only of survival. For just when she thought the wave could not get any stronger, it smashed her down into the ground, again and again, pinning her down with such force that she felt as if the entire weight of the world were atop her. She knew she would not survive.

  How ironic, she thought, to die here, in her home city, crushed beneath a tidal wave created by Pandesians’ cannon fire. She would rather have died any other way. She could, she thought, handle almost any form of death—except for drowning. She couldn’t take this awful pain, the flailing, being unable to open her mouth and take that one breath that every ounce of her body so desperately craved.

  She felt herself getting weaker, giving in to the pain—and then, just as she felt her eyes about to close, just as she knew she could not stand it one second longer, she suddenly felt herself turning, spinning rapidly upward, the wave shooting her up with the same force that it had used to crush h
er. She rose upward with the momentum of a catapult, racing for the surface, the sunlight visible, the pressure killing her ears.

  To her shock, a moment later she surfaced. She gasped, taking huge gulps of air, more grateful than she had ever been in her life. She gasped, sucking it in, and then a moment later, to her terror, she was sucked back down underwater. This time, though, she had enough oxygen to survive a little longer, and this time the water didn’t push her down as far.

  She soon rose back up again, surfacing, taking another gasp of air, before being driven down yet again. It was different each time, the wave weakening, and as she surfaced again, she sensed the wave was reaching the end of the city and petering out.

  Dierdre soon found herself past the city limits, past all the great buildings, all of them now underwater. She was driven back underwater, yet slow enough to be able to finally open her eyes underwater and see all the grand buildings beneath that had once stood. She saw scores of corpses floating in the water past her, like fish, bodies whose death expressions she already tried to drive from her mind.

  Finally, she did not know how much later, Dierdre surfaced, this time for good. She was strong enough to fight the final, weak wave as it tried to suck her back down, and with one last kick, she stayed afloat. The water from the harbor had traveled too far inland, and there was nowhere left for it to go, and Dierdre soon felt herself washed up onto a grassy field somewhere as the waters receded, rushing back out to sea, leaving her alone.

  Dierdre lay there on her stomach, face planted in the soggy grass, moaning from the pain. She was still gasping, her lungs aching, breathing deep and savoring every breath. She managed to turn her head weakly, to look back over her shoulder, and she was horrified to see that what had once been a great city was now nothing but sea. She spotted only the highest part of the bell tower, sticking out a few feet, and marveled that it once stood hundreds of feet in the air.

 
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